Older parents just contracted COVID. How can I help from ~3,000 mi away?
January 3, 2021 6:38 AM   Subscribe

My 60+ parents came down with COVID-19 in the hard-hit and ICU bed-deprived LA area. They both have underlying conditions but so far (day 3) their symptoms are moderate. I live in DC and my brother lives in SF. How can we help (remotely or otherwise)? Any and all ideas welcome. Struggling to think clearly. Thanks in advance.
posted by lecorbeau to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Send a pulse oximeter to track if they need imminent hospital care.
posted by k3ninho at 6:44 AM on January 3 [17 favorites]

Get in touch with any friends they have near them. It will be awkward and weird, but do it anyway. Especially younger friends.

And also get in touch with any friends you have near them. Make and renew connections.
posted by amtho at 6:55 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Seconding the oximeter so if things do get worse, they can avoid going to the hospital as long as possible. Have they been using online grocery delivery during the pandemic? If not, you could set them up and order groceries and help with any other online ordering so they can completely quarantine. You could also send them melatonin to take temporarily, since there are some early signs that it might be helpful. Do you know anyone near them who has already had COVID and recovered (or gotten a dose of the vaccine)? It might be helpful to have someone who could take them to the hospital if needed, since ambulances are overburdened.
posted by pinochiette at 7:05 AM on January 3 [5 favorites]

I mean, there's not a lot you can do besides worry to keep them out of hospital, which is obviously the real fear. Loading up on Vit D is not going to hurt. A pulseox is also a good idea, as is a thermometer.

Mostly, what you can do is make sure they have everything they need to be unwell at home: toilet paper, kleenex, tea, and food they don't have to think about at all.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:07 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Things to order for them online and have delivered (if they don't already have them):

- herbal teas (the hot liquid helps clear your mouth and throat from ickyness and can soothe sore throats)

- vitamin D, C and zinc supplements to boost their immune systems (anecdotally, I've heard a lot of people who have used these supplements through their illness have had better experiences with symptoms -- make sure they take the zinc with food and obviously double check they're not counter indicated with any medications they're currently taking)

- pulse oximeter, which they should use to check their vitals a few times a day -- if their pulse ox goes under 95%, even if they feel fine, they need to go to the emergency room

- some snacks or food they enjoy, especially if they still have the ability to taste/smell, they need to keep eating

- hot water bottles, blankets, cozy socks, nice things for when you feel sick

Is there someone nearby you can ask to check up on them (from a distance) if necessary? Do they have neighbours they're friendly with and can you get their contact info in case of an emergency?

Otherwise just keep in contact and try not to stress too much if you can. There's every chance they will come through it with just mild symptoms and be totally fine in a couple of weeks. Keep your chin up!
posted by fight or flight at 7:09 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]

From the other side, and I say this with empathy:

Do they have a will?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:14 AM on January 3 [18 favorites]

Can they ask their doctors about monoclonal antibody drugs? They can help prevent severe illness but need to be taken early on. Apparently they are being underused because so few people are asking for them.
posted by wyzewoman at 7:29 AM on January 3 [8 favorites]

Seconding wyzewoman on asking proactively for early medical treatment; see this NYT article about how not enough people know that it's available to them. Timing matters: antibody treatments "have to be infused into patients in a narrow window of time, within 10 days of when they start showing symptoms, but before they’re sick enough to be hospitalized."
posted by trig at 7:42 AM on January 3 [7 favorites]

Don't panic! They will probably be alright. One thing that is prudent is specifying someone with medical power of attorney. If they are hospitalized at the same time, it will be difficult for them to advocate for each other, even if it's not serious. It most likely won't come to hospitalization, but just in case, it can make treatment easier if there is one person to go to for medical questions that isn't also being treated. That person needs to be the one with the most knowledge of their medical history. Having an advocate is important for good medical care.
posted by domo at 8:24 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

This is an important read regarding pulse oximeters, especially (but not only!) if your parents are black. Fight or flight's recommendation to go to the hospital if readings drop to 95% is in line with the information in this article.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:33 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

There has been some research indicating that if you have the virus, gargling with antibacterial mouthwash can help lessen the viral load in the mouth and throat, which then means that you aspirate less of the virus into the lungs, and may then have milder symptoms. That article also mentions mixing a bit of hydrogen peroxide into the mouthwash before gargling. They don't know for sure if it helps, but maybe, and it doesn't hurt, so you could suggest that to them?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:45 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]

I know the instinct is that they want to be around each other, but if possible and practical if they can isolate within their home that may be helpful.

Lying on their stomachs and taking deep breathes (proning, like tummy time but for adults!) can help clear gunk out of their lungs.

Just call and check in each day to keep a read on how they are doing (write it down so you can clearly say to medical professionals their symptom progression) is good as well
posted by raccoon409 at 9:54 AM on January 3

This is really stressful, and I think it would be great if you tried to make sure they didn’t know you were stressed. With them, be sincere, upbeat, supportive, and positive. And then find a friend to talk with about your own stress.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:04 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]

If you can find any, send them pepcid: there's some indication that pepcid can help alleviate some of the symptoms.
posted by suelac at 11:25 AM on January 3

Do they both know how to video chat and have separate devices to do so?
posted by oceano at 12:16 PM on January 3

All of the things that fight or flight said, plus electrolytes (if they are not contraindicated with any medications). My cousin had pretty bad symptoms and she said staying hydrated and drinking an electrolyte solution that she usually uses for exercise recovery really helped her feel better. She used Nuun; I like this stuff. Pedialyte would do if that's easier for them to get.
posted by bedhead at 1:06 PM on January 5

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